Havasupai Campground – Journey to Havasu – Day 1

Havasupai Campground
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The Havasupai campground is seemingly always full as on any given day only a third of the campers are leaving and being replaced with new campers. The challenge is to find a spot that gives your neighbor at least a little bit of breathing room. The campground is just over a mile long and camping is permitted almost everywhere within that mile on both sides of the Havasu Creek as well as several islands in the middle. Obviously, this is all camp at your own risk and first-come, first served. Hammocks and hanging bags litter the trees throughout the mile-long corridor. Crossing the creek can be treacherous with a heavy pack but the far side is often the place that one needs to go to find a spot. 

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Havasupai Campground foot bridge
One of the well worn foot bridges found in the Havasupai Campground.

5-Gallon Food Barrel

Havasupai Baggage Claim
The Havasupai Campground baggage claim area and ranger station where a 5-gallon bucket can be borrowed for free.

The trail to the Havasupai Campground descends from the base of the 98’ high Havasu waterfall and then flattens out at the fence indicating the entrance into the campground. There is a ranger station on the left where a food barrel (5-gallon bucket) can be borrowed for free. Grab one. They are needed as the squirrels in the campground will rip into anything with food in it. 

A Ratsack – Alternative to the 5-Gallon Barrel

The availability of the 5-Gallon Barrel is limited. Bringing a Ratsack is another great option to keep your food away from opportunistic creatures. We saw two different instances with squirrels digging through day packs while we were at Havasupai so food protection is needed at all times.

Finding the Goldilocks Campsite

The Havasupai Canyon
The Havasupai Campground is squeezed into the floor of this canyon next to the Havasu Creek. It can be difficult to find a good campsite.

The campground is flat but over a mile long so finding a spot can be tedious. Jennifer and I walked the entire length searching for a good spot. There were spots to be had but we wanted one that was flat and within earshot of the water. Some seclusion was also preferred but this is very hard to come by. We found several spots at the very far end of the campground. The first was flat but very exposed with no tree cover. The second had lots of tree cover, was flat but the creek was fairly far off. The last one was at the very edge of the campground, had a picnic table, was flat and had a little bit of tree cover. This last one was the spot for us and I would highly recommend holding out for this area when you visit as well.

Don’t Cross that Thin Red-Line

5-Gallon Bucket
Our campsite on the edge of the campground complete with 5-gallon bucket to keep the wildlife at bay.

We found out later that there is a red-line spray painted on the rocks at the far end of the campground. This is the demarcation line for camping. No camping is allowed beyond the line and for good reason. The soil is porous and this area is dangerous to camp on. It could give way and go over the edge of Mooney Falls. Lucky for us our tent was about 5’ on the right side of the red-line.

Toilets at the Havasupai Campground

Havasupai Campground Toilets
This is one of the 4 drop toilet complexes spread throughout the Havasupai Campground.

There are three composting toilet facilities inside the Havasupai Campground. The largest of which is at the entrance to the campground with eight available stalls. The other two locations both have 4 stalls. One is found on the far side of the campground and the other is located about halfway through. This means that for some the walk to the bathroom could be a quarter of a mile and then there will most likely be a wait.

Drinking Water at the Havasupai Campground

Havasu Creek
The Havasu Creek runs through the Havasupai Campground and if filtered properly is a great water source.

There is a water spigot for drinking water purposes available relatively close to the entrance of the campground. It is recommended to filter this water so most people just filter water directly from Havasu Creek. Our campsite was a mile’s walk from the spigot so we choose to filter directly from the creek. We survived!

Mooney Falls

Mooney Falls and the Cliffs
The Havasu Creek careens over the 200′ high Mooney Falls located at the end of the Havasupai Campground.

Once we were set up we spent the rest of our first day meandering around the campground. We saw Mooney Falls from all angles above the falls and realized the porous nature of the ground that we were now camping on. Mooney Falls drops over a cliff where the ground itself looks like it was frozen in mid-fall. The brown earth looks as if it was poured onto the landscape a phenomenon created by the amount of lime in the water. This high concentration of lime is also responsible for the rich blue water of Havasu Creek.  

Back to Havasu Falls

The Milky Way above Havasu Falls and the Havasupai Campground
Getting to see the Milky Way over Havasu Falls is one of the best things about the Havasupai Campground.

Next, we traversed back across the length of the mile-long campground to return to Havasu Falls to splash around in the waters there. I also choose to wake up in the middle of the night and photograph Havasu with the Milky Way above. The first night I was hard-pressed to wake up and as a result, was a little late. Instead of great astrophotography, I ended up with better blue light photos of the falls but on the second night/third morning, I nailed the timing and got some amazing Milky Way shots. I, of course, used the Star Walk 2 app (one of our favorite Outdoor Apps) to determine the best time to be at the falls. Getting to the falls meant a mile-long walk, this time in pitch-black darkness.

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